'Travel is not recommended': Biggest East Coast winter storm in years could drop up to 2 feet of snow

'Travel is not recommended': Biggest East Coast winter storm in years could drop up to 2 feet of snow


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  • Many cities will see more snow this week than they saw all last winter.
  • The heaviest snowfall amounts are currently forecast across western Maryland and south-central Pennsylvania.
  • The Weather Service has posted winter storm alerts all the way from northeastern Georgia to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The biggest East Coast winter storm in years is on target to hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Wednesday and Thursday, threatening up to 2 feet of snow in some areas.

Forecasters warn that the “blockbuster” storm will hit hard and fast, causing major disruptions or even shutdowns in travel, as well as shipping delays, school closings and power outages, AccuWeather said.

The National Weather Service said, “A widespread swath of heavy, wet snow is likely from the central Appalachians and interior Mid-Atlantic into portions of the Northeast and southern New England. Freezing rain and ice are also likely in western North Carolina and southwest Virginia. Travel is not recommended.” 

Some areas may pick up their heaviest snowfall in several years, rivaling December records, according to AccuWeather. Many cities will see more snow this week than they saw all last winter, the Weather Channel said. 

In the big cities, according to the Weather Service, the snowfall forecast for Washington is 1 to 2 inches; for Philadelphia, 8 to 12 inches; for New York City, 14 inches; and for Boston, 8 to 12 inches. 

As of Tuesday morning, the heaviest snowfall amounts are forecast across western Maryland and south-central Pennsylvania, where as much as 2 feet of snow could fall. The combination of heavy snow and gusty winds could create near-blizzard conditions, AccuWeather said.

The Weather Service posted winter storm warnings, watches and advisories all the way from northeastern Georgia to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, a distance of more than 850 miles.

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In New York City, restaurants will have to shutter their outdoor dining Wednesday afternoon under a “snow alert” from the Department of Sanitation.

Restaurants will be barred from serving diners in their roadway setups and must remove all tables, chairs and electrical heaters. Many restaurants in the city have built wooden structures over the course of the pandemic to house tables and expand dining options under COVID-19 restrictions.

Billy Cole, general manager of Korean restaurant Little Dokebi in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, said the snowstorm on top of the indoor dining ban limits the business to takeout and delivery. The restaurant had a wooden structure on the street where diners could eat outside, but workers moved it to the sidewalk before the storm. Even if they kept it in the street, “nobody is going to sit outside in the snowstorm,” Cole said.

The city’s restaurants face mounting struggles amid rising COVID-19 cases and months of restrictions. 

Airlines issued broad travel waivers for passengers who want to dodge the storm by leaving earlier or later or canceling their trip. Airlines issue waivers and proactively cancel flights, so they don’t strand passengers and planes.

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The storm will continue Thursday in the Northeast and across much of southern New England.  

Snow and ice won’t be the only weather story by midweek: High temperatures will struggle to get out of the upper 30s on Wednesday and Thursday in Philadelphia and Washington. New York City and Boston may not even reach the freezing mark, AccuWeather said. 

Low temperatures are forecast in the teens and lower 20s by Thursday night.

The Weather Channel dubbed the storm “Winter Storm Gail,” though no other forecasting companies, nor the Weather Service, uses this name. 

Contributing: Ryan W. Miller and Dawn Gilbertson

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